If you’ve ever flown with a budget airline you know to be wary of their hidden fees. After all, for budget airlines, these fees can be a significant portion of their revenue. They advertise the super cheap fare to get you to book and then nail you with fees later on if you don’t precisely follow all their terms and conditions.
For the most part, this is just a given and people know what they are getting when they book with a budget carrier. However, some of the more egregious offenders are charging fees that nobody would consider fair or even justifiable.
For example, one of the worst airlines out there for charging crazy fees is Thai Lion Air. Many, many customers have reported paying checked bag fees at the airport of up to $400 per bag. Now, that may sound nuts and you’re probably thinking you would just not pay the fee, but imagine this scenario:
You book a flight from Bangkok to Los Angeles but you need to get from Kuala Lumpur to Bangkok first so you book a Thai Lion flight to get you there for just $60 per seat. You and your travel partner each have a checked bag so you decide you’ll just pay for a checked bag at the airport. At the airport, you find out that Thai Lion’s checked bag fees are roughly $10 USD per kg.
Since you have two bags each weighing 20kg you’re forced to pay the fee of $400! So now your short flight from Malaysia to Thailand will cost you a total of $520 instead of $120, that’s a huge increase in price for that short flight. Often times your only option is to pay, or you’ll miss your flight in Bangkok, so people are forced into paying up. This woman reported paying $850 for 3 bags while flying with Thai Lion Air.
Each of the Lion Air Group airlines (Lion Air, Thai Lion, Batik Air, Wings Air, Malindo Air) are all pretty bad with fees. In January 2019 they changed their baggage policy and removed free checked bags entirely for their economy class tickets for most airlines. On top of that, you can only purchase checked baggage allowance on their website and they are very restrictive with how you can pay for baggage in advance.
To use Thai Lion Air again as an example, if you purchase baggage in advance it is WAY cheaper than the $10 USD per kg BUT (of course there is a catch) you can only pay with a Thai credit or debit card. So unless you have a Thai bank account you’ll need to use a third-party site that will purchase the baggage allowance for you at the lower rate and charge a small service fee.
Obviously, these airlines are some of the worst offenders, but the constant demand for cheap airfare might keep fees like these in the picture for a while. Many other budget carriers like Spirit in the US charge up to $100 per bag but rarely have as high of fees as the ones we are seeing on the airlines just mentioned.
How To Avoid high baggage fees:
When you search for flights you’ll probably use an online travel agent (OTA) like Google Flights, Kayak, or Expedia. When you search for flights you can often filter by how many checked bags the airlines allow. Google Flights is especially good at this so we’ll look at their site for an example. Here is where you can set a filter for checked bags allowance in their search bar on this search for New York City to Paris:
Then once you are in the flight detail page for a specific itinerary you can click on the baggage details to see more information about the baggage policies. This makes it easier to make sure you’re getting the best deal when taking baggage allowance into consideration.
There’s really no better way to protect yourself from fees than to make sure you do your research. Before you book your ticket, take the baggage fees into account. One good resource for this is this list of all the major airlines and their baggage fees. If you’re going to be flying with a heavy carry on then it usually makes economic sense to buy a ticket with a non-budget carrier that allows you to have a free checked bag.
Overall, you need to be diligent when looking for a cheap flight to make sure you’re not going to be tricked into paying nasty fees. Hopefully, these tips will help save you a few hundred bucks next time you travel so you can spend it on your actual vacation.
Disclaimer: This is a sponsored post.